Research Finds African Americans With Strong Social Network Less Likely to Experience Cognitive Decline

New research from scholars at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine has found African Americans with a strong network of friends were more likely to have healthier cognitive abilities than African Americans with fewer friends.

The study analyzed data regarding cognitive ability and social networks from 2,308 African Americans over the age of 51. By examining information regarding each participants’ number of children, family, and friends, the researchers identified three different classifications of social networks to assign to each study participant: friend-focused, diverse, and restricted. The study participants whose social network was considered to be primarily friend-focused were associated with the highest levels of cognitive status.

“Relationships with friends are particularly important for maintaining cognitive health/preventing cognitive decline,” said study author Ann Nguyen, associate professor at Case Western Reserve University. “The way we interact with friends is different from the way we interact with family. Also relationships with friends can be more positive because we can choose our friends but we can’t choose our family. These differences contribute to cognitive health.”

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